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MIT and Elsevier

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Why MIT ended its contract with Elsevier

Elsevier is one of the largest publishers of scholarly journals in the world. MIT Libraries had been in discussions with Elsevier about a new journals contract for some time. Guided by the principles of the MIT Framework for Publisher Contracts, MIT Libraries sought a contract that would reflect the Institute’s values and needs and preserve our ability to share MIT research openly and equitably with the world.

Despite our best efforts, Elsevier was unable to present a proposal that aligned with the framework. After months of good faith negotiations, it became clear that Elsevier was not able to meet our needs, so we ended negotiations at the conclusion of our six-month extension on our contract.

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Background on the negotiations

The MIT Libraries have been using the MIT Framework for Publisher Contracts to guide negotiations with scholarly publishers since October 2019. The framework affirms the overarching principle that control of scholarship and its dissemination should reside with scholars and their institutions.

Ways in which Elsevier’s 2020 proposal did not align with the framework:

  • Elsevier would maintain ownership and restrictive rights over journal articles not covered by an open access publishing agreement. This means that many authors would be required to waive MIT’s open access policy, as well as to give up copyright ownership in their papers.
  • Elsevier’s economic model was inequitable and non-transparent. Per-article payments are costly and risk locking out scholars from less-privileged institutions and less well-funded disciplines. There were no clear explanations for how they arrived at their fees.

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